One of the big questions heading into the 2022 cycle was how the Republican candidates would reflect the GOP base in terms of their views on the 2020 election. Poll after poll has shown that a clear majority of Republicans falsely believe that President Joe Biden did not legally win the 2020 election.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that many Republicans running for office believe this as well. But could any of these candidates end up leading states where elections are usually close? In most cases, the answer is no. Most electoral denialists running for governor either have a slim chance of winning or come from states that former President Donald Trump easily won.
There is one big exception: GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake of Arizona. In the second closest state to the 2020 presidential election, Lake is neck-and-neck with Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs.
Three polls this past week, all of which were within the margin of error, illustrate the point well. A CBS News/YouGov poll had Lake and Hobbs tied at 49%. The Fox poll put Hobbs at 44% to Lake’s 43%. Marist College had Lake at 46% and Hobbs at 45%.
These polls are representative of the average of all polls in which the candidates run essentially evenly.
Lake is stronger than Blake Masters, the state’s GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. Masters leads his Democratic opponent, Sen. Mark Kelly, by more than 5 points in the average of all polls.
You might think Masters is somehow more extreme than Lake. That is not at all clear, at least as far as the 2020 elections are concerned.
In that regard, Lake – like Masters – is an election denier. In fact, that’s what makes Lake so special. There are other Republicans in position to win the governorships of close states in 2020 this year, and almost all of them have tried to be on both sides of the aisle in recent presidential elections (ie raising questions about their legitimacy, but not saying so). they stole) or accepted the 2020 results.
Electoral denialists running for governor this year in 2020 swing states are Tudor Dixon of Michigan and Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania. Both trail their Democratic opponents – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, respectively – with double-digit poll averages. Mastriano is now trailing Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, despite Oz stumbling after the primary. (Oz, who Trump endorsed in the primaries, said he would vote to secure the outcome of the 2020 election.)
Indeed, the denial of the 2020 election has been characterized by losing gubernatorial campaigns in swing or blue states. Blue-state Republicans Dan Cox of Maryland and Geoff Diehl of Massachusetts are being trounced by their opponents in the polls, even with the states’ current governors and outgoing Republicans.
You might be tempted to think that Lake has a chance because voters in the Grand Canyon State feel they were robbed of the 2020 election. That doesn’t seem to be the case. In an August Fox poll, only 28% of voters were not at all confident that their ballots were legitimately cast and counted fairly in the 2020 election.
Additionally, the Marist poll showed that only 6% of voters are not at all confident that the 2022 election in Arizona will not be conducted fairly and accurately. Another 23% are not very sure; the vast majority (71%) are sure that it will be.
So what’s Lake’s secret? Part of it may be that his past as a TV anchor is paying off. It seems to be doing a good enough job of reaching voters in the middle of the electorate.
Lake needs to be competitive with the independents to beat Arizona. Unlike many other battleground states, Arizona’s electorate is overwhelmingly Republican. This means that Democratic candidates typically need a mix of winning more Republican voters than Republican candidates winning over Democratic voters and winning independents by large margins. Put another way, Lake can win even if he loses independents and retains less of his base than Hobbs.
In the Marist poll, for example, Kelly has a 17-point lead over independents. Hobbs is up just 2 points between them.
But Lake’s position may have more to do with the fact that the 2020 election denial isn’t as important a factor to voters as they think it is when voting in statewide elections. Only 18% of voters in the CBS News poll said they wanted Arizona voters to say Biden didn’t win in 2020, while another 41% said it didn’t matter. That means a majority of Arizona voters (59%) don’t care or actually like it when someone running for office denies the reality of the 2020 election.
A closer look at the numbers indicates that the GOP can easily win the secretary of state races in Arizona (Mark Finchem) and neighboring Nevada (Joe Marchant). Republicans running for both of those positions have rejected the results of the 2020 election as they aim to become chief election officers in their states.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson voted against securing the 2020 election and is a slight favorite to win another term against Democratic Gov. Mandela Barnes. Similarly, Nevada’s Adam Laxalt has raised questions about the 2020 election and has played a leading role in post-election legislative efforts to reverse Biden’s victory in the state. He is running in a tight race with Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
None of these GOP Senate candidates are running to run a swing state. And the name recognition of the mentioned state candidates is significantly lower than that of Lake.
Lake is quite competitive as an election denier, even though he is popular and a candidate for a real position of power when it comes to elections. If he and Finchem win, Arizona’s two election certification officials will deny the reality of the 2020 election.
That could be a pretty big deal in two years, if another close presidential election — like the one between Biden and Trump in 2020 — is on the line and Arizona is once again in turmoil.